Who

People suffering from large, full-body, severe burns.

What

The handheld 3D skin printer can deposit sheets of skin to cover large burn wounds and its “bio-ink” can accelerate the healing process. The device covers wounds with a uniform sheet of biomaterial, stripe by stripe. The bio-ink, which is dispensed by a roller, is composed of mesenchymal stroma cells (MSCs) — stem cells that differentiate into specialized cell types, depending on their environment. In this case, the MSC material promotes skin regeneration and reduces scarring. The device is an improved version of a prototype that could deposit cells onto a burn but could not provide wound-healing benefits. The new device includes a single-use microfluidic printhead to ensure sterilization and a soft wheel that follows the track of the printhead for better control for wider wounds.

Where

University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto

Why

The current method of care for burns involves skin grafting, which requires transplantation of healthy skin from other parts of the body onto the wound. But large, full-thickness burns are characterized by the destruction of both the outermost and innermost layers of the skin; these burns often cover a significant portion of the body. With large burns, there is not sufficient healthy skin available, which could lead to patient deaths.

When

The team wants to further reduce the amount of scarring, in addition to helping with wound healing. The main focus moving forward will be on the in-vivo side. They believe the handheld skin printer could be seen in a clinical setting — used by surgeons in an operating room — within the next five years.

Contact Jennifer Fraser, Director of Innovations, in the Innovations & Partnerships Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 416-946-5515.


Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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